The 2016 American presidential election was a landslide victory for Donald Trump as an individual and populism as an ideology. Americans in many states that were expected to vote Democrat instead rebelled against the elite voices in academia, Washington DC, the mainstream media, and Hollywood to vote instead for a foul-mouthed septuagenarian with a Twitter addiction and a reality television career.
This election was certainly what statistician Nassim Taleb would call a “black swan” event; that is, an outlier that one cannot foresee with considerable consequences. Few predicted that a man with no political experience, a large personal bankroll, and fiery rhetoric would defeat the Clintons, one of the strongest political machines in American history. Now that we are in the twilight of the Obama administration and the age of Trump looms ahead, I think it best for us to dissect the election results objectively and assess the good, the bad, and the ugly.
It has become fashionable in many quarters to blame the election results on a tide of racism and xenophobia. Many vocal Democrats in California, New York, Washington DC and Chicago have come to the conclusion that the majority of Trump supporters are bigots and that this is why Hillary Clinton lost in her bid for the presidency. In fact, nothing can be further from the truth.
It all began last fall, when Trump’s opponents in the media first revealed a strategy to assassinate Donald Trump’s character with early attempts to link Donald Trump to white nationalist David Duke, who had not even endorsed Trump at the time the media had demanded “accountability” from the Republican candidate. Trump took a strong position on illegal immigration and this was portrayed as an indictment of all Mexicans as rapists and criminals. Trump took a strong position on refusing refugees from a war-torn country with a known anti-American ideology and this was portrayed as “Islamophobia.” Trump took an aggressive approach to Megyn Kelly’s criticisms of the way he feuded with Rosie O’ Donnell in 2007 and this was portrayed as “misogyny.” Trump called his opponent a “nasty woman” during one of the debates and Democratic women reappropriated the term as though it applied to all of them.
These arguments are all, in fact, common fallacies used in public discourse. The David Duke connection is a classic guilt by association play, since nobody can control who endorses them and why. Just because two individuals share a common position on a single issue, it does not mean that they therefore agree on every issue. Consider for instance that the Communist Party of the USA was excited for Hillary Clinton in this election cycle; we should not take that as license to believe Clinton wants to destroy the institution of private property. The Nation of Islam endorsed Barack Obama in 2008, but that does mean Obama and Louis Farrakhan agree on everything under the sun. These allegations are good examples of composition fallacies intended to mobilize large segments of “victim groups” to view Trump’s election on a par with Kristallnacht and to therefore act appropriately. There is also the amusing fact that these charges ignore crucial facts about the subject that they intend to “explore.” Mexico is a nation state and Islam is a religion; neither is a race, so criticizing either one is not a racist action. The media attacked Donald Trump for his character and the average Democrat believed them, as did many moderates and some of the more Victorian conservatives.
Despite the fact that many Trump voters helped to elect Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, the media doubled-down on their allegations of racism. On election night, self-described communist Van Jones wen on to label the election a “whitelash against a changing country” on CNN. The same evening NPR’s Cokie Roberts stated that Americans voted against Clinton not because they thought her untrustworthy, but because she was a woman. Not to be outdone in the niche market that have made them a household name, Vox cemented its role as a racial agitator a week after the election by putting out a story that claimed Trump won by tapping into racism, “the most powerful force in America.” Not content to let these media outlets speak for them, many on my own Facebook news feed parroted this message with startling comments, such as: “feeling stressed out by uneducated whites”, “America really let down women and minorities” and “So disappointed in America..We are far more racist, sexist and morally unjust than I thought we were…Not proud to be an American.” One person even went so far as to create a public Facebook thread as a “safe space for women and minorities” and explained that any comments posted by white males would be deleted. I didn’t ask her, but one wonders what her reaction would have been if I had decided to identify as a black woman on that particular evening and post something sympathetic on the thread; it sounds like she needs to check her privilege.
Herein lies my beef with the American left. For decades progressives have cried wolf on bigotry and labeled honest opponents as racist or misogynist with little evidence to back it up. In prior campaigns, the mainstream media succeeded in portraying George W Bush as a moron, John McCain as old and out of touch, and Mitt Romney as an elite financier with little connection to the common man. Alongside these particular critiques of the candidates, however, there was always an underlying message that Republicans are racist xenophobes who do not care for women and minorities.
What is most curious, though, is that many on the left do not seem to notice that in framing Republicans as bigoted they are in fact engaged in the same sort of collectivism that they are supposedly calling out. After Trump won, the usual divisive barrage ensued as nearly every media outlet explained that it was shocking that Trump had won more black votes than Romney and McCain. Embarrassed pollsters who called the election for Clinton sought to repair the damage done to their reputations by slicing and dicing the election statistics in order to install awe in people who could never imagine a single Hispanic person voting for Trump. Prominent “progressives” like Ana Kasparian of the Young Turks put William Shakespeare to shame when she poetically explained that white women who voted for Trump were “fucking stupid”. Inherent in all of these reactions is the premise that the left have figured out what is in the interest of all members of the supposed “victim groups” that they champion. A person that holds this premise will think people foolish or naive when they diverge from what is prescribed to them, but the basic fallacy that they commit in thinking this way is that the groups are somehow more real than the individuals that comprise them. What needs to be said is that it is individuals and not classes that have interests, and not all people who receive government benefits and favors want to keep them. This is why Clinton lost: people vote as individuals and this time, they were not buying what ol’ Hilldabeast was selling.
The resentment generated by the left’s race-baiting has not stopped with mere words. Rioters in Oregon set fire to property amid assault against alleged Trump supporters. Individuals in California and New York City blocked traffic, preventing commuters from returning home from work and obstructing emergency vehicles. In New York City, marchers convened on Trump Tower chanting “rape Melania”, a slogan that garnered a Twitter following of nearly 350,000 before eventually subsiding. There is footage of a Trump voter in Chicago being beaten to within an inch of his life by several black youths. Actor Michael Shannon, the man cast to play General Zod in the Superman movies, came out recently with the statement that “if you voted for Trump, it is time for the urn”, and no, he was not in character when he did it. On a less violent note, there are lesbians and gays who fear that Trump will overturn their marriages within his first 100 days in office. I have even heard it said that Trump plans to grant federal funding to the Ku Klux Klan.
Where to begin with this disgraceful turn of events? One could start with the observation that the protesters are doing this in overwhelmingly Democratic states which voted Hillary, and that they are only hurting their political allies. One could elaborate that this country has a separation of powers and that the power of the president to do many of these fantastic acts is strictly limited. One could recount that prior to the election many in the media demonized Trump supporters as violent and chastised Trump for not vowing to accept the election results, only to prove themselves hypocrites when the election was over.
I am not a racist, misogynist, or a xenophobe; I believe in limited government and individual rights. Trump does not represent my values and neither did Hillary Clinton, but in my estimation he was the lesser evil compared to Clinton. To see why I think Clinton was an opportunistic influence peddler and a proven incompetent, see my essay here. Trump, on the other hand, has some short term policy proposals that I see as tactical victories.
On the issues, here is what I considered. I think the US needs a more conservative Supreme Court that will not overturn Citizens United in an attempt to punish corporate America at the expense of the First Amendment. I think healthcare is not a right and to treat it as such is a political, economic and moral disaster. Clinton made overtures that she would continue many of Obama’s policies and this was a deal-breaker for me on several counts. I am opposed to Obama’s behavior overseas when it comes to decrying American exceptionalism and claiming, as he did to people in South America, that there is “no difference between socialism and capitalism.” Obama’s failure to stick up for America as a unique nation with a secular Constitution and a respect for individual rights is shameful and his abdication of responsibility for American national security to the United Nations, a corrupt body that treats China, Russia and the United States as moral equals on the world stage, is feckless and uninspiring. I think climate change alarmism is a solution without a problem, and that the supposedly harmful effects of global warming are exaggerated by the environmentalist left to enable government more control over scientific research and ultimately, to roll back the achievements of the Industrial Revolution. Of course, I am also for lower taxes and enforcement of current immigration law.
A Trump presidency has considerable potential for negative long-term consequences as well as short-term positive ones. Trump is an untested and inexperienced world leader, and there is some doubt that he will be able to do the job effectively. Trump has praised dictators like Vladimir Putin and made it clear that he believes the market is “win / lose” rather than “win / win”. Trump is a protectionist who may do severe damage to American trade with foreign nations. The Donald has engaged in petty Twitter wars over personal sleights, and has changed his position on many key issues since the start of the campaign in order to garner his populist support.
I want to end this with an olive branch to those on the left: we need you in the coming years, and we need you to be sane. Save your ammo for the real fights and turn away from the regressive ideology that has animated you for the last decade.
3 thoughts on “Election 2016: A Rebuke to Democrats”
Well done, Rob! We (Ray, Mary Louise, and I) read it all and thought you made some excellent points. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for reading Linda! Stay posted for more in the future (and podcasts once I get that rolling!) 🙂
Excellent summary and analysis – thanks for that – and congrats on “going live”.
“The 2016 American presidential election was a landslide victory for Donald Trump as an individual and populism as an ideology…”
Quantitatively speaking it was no landslide, by any account. Compare with the elections of 1964 (LBJ), 1972 (Nixon II), 1980/84 (Reagan). Perhaps you mean that qualitatively, given the prevailing public political atmosphere and entrenched system in which he arose, Trump’s victory, however modest it might be compared to the great post-war landslides mentioned, is a landslide.
Trump is already the most dominating figure in American politics since Ronald Reagan, and a very prominent place in our history is already his, because of who he is, what he accomplished and how he accomplished it: He is the first person EVER to literally walk “off the street” and into the WHouse. Someone with no public service record of any sort – not as a governor, not as a congressman, not as a military leader, not even as a member of the local PTA board – has become the most powerful political figure in the world in the twinkling of an eye, and this in an era when it seemed impossible for anyone to advance a single step in our political system without insider connections and established party support.
What’s more, Trump did it on his own terms and from his own wallet – no big donors or PACs backing him, no massive ad blitzes (HRC outspent him by perhaps 10/1 ? ), etc etc etc – ad nauseam. We can analyze his strategy and tactics for years on end (the pundits and professors most certainly will do just that), but it’s hardly relevant: Trump emerged victorious because his core message and his personal sincerity and commitment – which he was able to convey to directly to the public thanks to the tools available in the digital age – resonated with the voters themselves, irrespective of party, pundits and propaganda.
There’s your LANDSLIDE – in no uncertain terms.
“I want to end this with an olive branch to those on the left: we need you in the coming years, and we need you to be sane.”
You’re trying to end on an optimistic, hopeful note, but to an ancient relic like myself, it smacks of naivete. Your contemporaries, who are already indoctrinated with leftism from the cradle, are unlikely IMO to become “sane”. Attributed to Vladmir Lenin:
“Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.”
Hope for the future rests with those who are still too young to read and understand your essay and your closing plea. Today Mr. Trump announced his pick for Sec. of Education, Betsy DeVos. She is at the vanguard of the school choice movement – a strong advocate of vouchers for education, and charter schools, and the sworn enemy of the leftist dominated teachers’ unions and tenured leftist professors. The more successful she is in her mission, the greater is our hope for the future.